Hotel entrepreneur Robert Bigelow, who donated a substantial $20 million to the pro-Ron DeSantis super PAC “Never Back Down,” has expressed his hesitancy to contribute further funds to the Florida governor’s struggling presidential campaign. Bigelow’s lack of enthusiasm stems from concerns about DeSantis’ inability to attract new major donors and adopt a more moderate approach. According to Bigelow, DeSantis needs to shift his stance to appeal to moderates, as extremism is unlikely to secure an electoral victory. This critical viewpoint from one of DeSantis’ biggest individual donors highlights the mounting apprehensions surrounding the governor’s campaign.
Bigelow specifically pointed out his disapproval of DeSantis signing a bill in April that banned abortions after six weeks, citing it as a policy he could not support. This move came after Bigelow’s substantial donation, leading him to voice his skepticism about contributing more funds. The hotel entrepreneur emphasized the need for DeSantis to generate additional financial support independently and address the concerns of many donors who are still undecided. These reservations from Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace, coincide with his belief that DeSantis’ campaign needs a significant financial boost.
DeSantis’ political trajectory was initially anticipated with great enthusiasm, as he was projected to mount a substantial challenge against former President Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination. However, the reality has turned out to be quite different. DeSantis is struggling to garner public support due to his right-wing social policies and perceived lack of charisma. His refusal to pivot from Trump’s policies and focus on moderates, despite recommendations from Republican strategists, raises concerns about his electability. Donors worry that DeSantis’ current trajectory is leading him into a downward spiral.
Donors play an essential role in political campaigns by contributing funds to garner support and shape policy direction. However, DeSantis’ campaign spokesperson, Bryan Griffin, emphasized that donors do not dictate policy decisions for the governor. This statement implies that DeSantis intends to maintain autonomy in setting policy priorities, unswayed by the opinions of major donors. This commitment may deter some potential contributors who desire a more substantial say in the direction of the campaign.
The bill signed by DeSantis banning abortions after six weeks has elicited negative reactions from multiple donors. Andy Sabin, a metals magnate and Republican donor, withdrew his support for DeSantis and shifted his allegiance to Senator Tim Scott, partially due to the abortion issue. Other donors are also expressing their concerns, demonstrating the potential consequences of DeSantis’ right-wing policies. While Bigelow agrees with most of DeSantis’ policies, he vehemently disapproves of the abortion restrictions, asserting that they are enacted too early to allow women sufficient time to realize their pregnancy.
DeSantis has encountered various obstacles that have hindered his ability to connect with voters effectively. Despite the initial buzz surrounding his campaign, he has faced difficulties in terms of organizational efficiency, public interactions portrayed in viral videos, and relentless attacks from Trump. This combination of factors has dampened DeSantis’ appeal, as demonstrated by a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll that placed his support among Republicans at a mere 13%, compared to Trump’s commanding 47%. To improve his chances, Bigelow advised DeSantis’ campaign manager, Generra Peck, that a more moderate approach would be necessary. Although DeSantis’ campaign did not respond to inquiries about Peck and Bigelow, Bigelow expressed confidence in Peck’s abilities as a campaign manager.
Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign is facing mounting challenges as major donor Robert Bigelow raises concerns about the governor’s ability to attract new significant donors and pivot toward a more moderate stance. Bigelow’s hesitation to contribute further funds and his criticism of DeSantis’ right-wing policies reflect the anxieties of other donors. DeSantis’ struggle to gain traction among voters and his refusal to pivot away from Trump’s policies compound the difficulties he faces. As the 2024 presidential race intensifies, it remains to be seen whether DeSantis can overcome these obstacles and position himself as a viable contender.